Video games turned into movies don’t often fare well.
And “Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker” won’t go down in the annals of great adaptations, but falls squarely in the middle. It’s not terrible, but it’s nothing special, especially for people who aren’t fans of the gaming franchise.
Bioware’s “Dragon Age” games have been hits, and “DA II’s” promise of an engaging story even got me to give it a try, and I don’t usually go for RPGs. So doing a movie is a bit of a no-brainer.
But doing an anime movie with Funimation and Oxybot is something different for a Western gaming property, but as the game’s directors mention in a making-of featurette, anime’s embrace of more mature themes (and violence) is a natural fit.
“Dawn of the Seeker” tells the backstory of Cassandra, the Seeker conducting interrogations in the “Dragon Age II” game. Here, she’s an idealistic young seeker who hates all mages, even the good ones, because an evil blood mage killed her brother. She gets wrapped up in a conspiracy to take down the Chantry, the world’s top religious order and pretty much the boss of everything. Seekers are the Chantry’s elite soldiers.
The Chantry could probably use a bit of taking down, but not with dragons blowing everything up.
After being branded a traitor, Cassandra reluctantly teams up with a mage, Gaylan, to find and rescue the girl at the center of the mess and avert disaster.
While the movie clips along nicely, and there’s some fun dialogue, everything about it is by-the-book and completely devoid of surprise. The bad guys are obvious from the first time all the characters are assembled. Cassandra and Gaylan’s antagonistic relationship turns to one of trust, and Cassandra learns the Important Lesson that not all mages are bad.
The trick to doing a prequel is making sure the story is still interesting, even when the viewer knows the outcome. “Dawn of the Seeker” is passable at best, carried along by some interesting visuals and voice work in the English dub.
The character animation is pretty bad — the jerky cel-shaded CGI that I just can’t stand because it looks awful and has no depth or flow. The backgrounds fare better, but the dragons, which are full CGI, are stunning creatures. You might just want to skip to the last 15 minutes or so to see them in action.
On the dub, Funimation stalwart Colleen Clinkenbeard does a solid job as Cassanrda, though she has a light accent that comes and goes. J. Michael Tatum channels Flynn from “Tangled” as Gaylan. He’s one of my favorite Funimation actors.
But while it’s filled with stock characters, cliched plots and over-the-top violence (think Starz’s “Spartacus” for gushing blood), game fans may find a little extra to enjoy as there are plenty of nods to continuity. The creators say the film is canon, and characters such as Gaylan may show up in future games, which are in development.
Here’s the trailer: